Oriskany Class

Overview

Country: United States

The USS Oriskany, hull number CV-34, was originally an Essex-class aircraft carrier and was first launched on 13 October 1945. However, with the end of the Second World War the Oriskany was mothballed. She wasn't completed and commissioned for service until 25 September 1950, under the SCB-27A programme and after the outbreak of the Korean War. Her first active deployment was a five-month Mediterranean cruise starting in May 1951. Following this the Oriskany was taken out of service again to allow her to receive a new flight deck, bridge and steering system and celebrated by becoming the first aircraft carrier to navigate round Cape Horn on her way to serve with the 7th Fleet out of San Diego.

Between September 1952 and May 1953 the Oriskany served with the United Nations’ Korean War naval task force and on 1 October 1952 the Mighty ‘O’ was reclassified as an Attack Aircraft Carrier taking the hull number CVA-34. Aircraft from the Oriskany attacked Communist troop positions and their supply centres, dropping over 45,000 tons of bombs and firing more than a million rounds of 20 mm ammunition. Aircraft from the Oriskany fought what is believed to be the first multi-jet aerial dog-fight on 17 November 1952 when 4 F-9F Panthers engaged 7 MiG-15s.

The Oriskany returned to the Far East in September 1953 and with the Korean War ended the Oriskany became a set for the movie "The Bridges of Toko Ri" starring Mickey Rooney, Grace Kelly and William Holden.

October 1958 saw the Oriskany de-activated for a third time during which she was modernised under the SCB-125A programme and fitted with a modern angled flight deck, as opposed to her Second World War-era straight deck, steam catapults, a newly profiled bow, a restructured interior and modernised systems. As the only vessel to benefit from the huge changes that were part of the SCB-125A programme, many have termed the recommissioned Oriskany as being part of her own Oriskany-class. The Mighty ‘O’ was recommissioned in May 1959 and commenced a round of aircrew training and a Pacific cruise before receiving another refit in March 1961 which included the installation of the Naval Tactical Data System electronic computer system, the first United States Navy ship to be so equipped.

Oriskany deployed off the coast of South Vietnam in response to the military coup of November 1963 but no military action was required and the Oriskany completed her Pacific cruise. Returning to the Vietnamese coast in May 1965 as part of Task Force 77, the aircraft of the Oriskany’s Carrier Air Wing 16 flew their first Vietnam War missions on the 8th and would go on to clock up more than 12,000 combat sorties during this deployment, a record number.

The Oriskany completed a further six combat tours to Vietnam, each separated by at least five months back in the United States for repair, overhaul and modification. Disaster struck the Oriskany during her second Vietnam tour when, at 0728 on 26 October 1966, a fire broke out in the forward magazine and burned through five decks, claiming the lives of 44 crew men, and forcing the ship back to America for repairs.
By July 1967 the Oriskany was back on station for her third Vietnam tour during which her aircraft flew 9,552 combat missions, including participation in the first air raids on several targets in the most dangerous north-eastern corner of North Vietnam and dropped or fired 7,500 tons of ordnance in the process. Further events of note during the third tour included Lt. Dick Wyman’s 15-minute dog-fight with a MiG-17 ending in Wyman shooting-down the MiG; and the assistance offered by the Oriskany to the USS Forrestal when she suffered a fire on 29 July 1967. The Oriskany received two Navy Unit Commendations during this tour.

The Oriskany began her 7th and final Vietnam tour on 5 June 1972 but the tour was blighted by incidents such as the night-time collision with the US

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